Dunelm hands back £14.5m in furlough money after sales soar

Homewares chain Dunelm is to hand back £14.5 million it claimed under the Government’s furlough scheme.

The retailer said it would also not make any claims for Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s Job Retention Scheme bonus of £1,000 per employee, following a strong performance as pandemic-inspired DIY and home improvements continue to remain strong.

The pledge came as bosses revealed that sales jumped 36.7% to £359.1 million in the three months to September 26, with strong growth in online sales, which accounted for 29.7% of all sales.

They said that, since the new Covid-19 regional restrictions have been implemented, the business has not seen any disruption but added that they “recognise that the situation remains dynamic with a number of ongoing risks and uncertainties”.

However, with Covid-19 restrictions increasing and the future remaining uncertain, the company warned that it is “unable to provide any meaningful guidance”.

Dunelm chief executive Nick Wilkinson said: “Recent months have seen homewares become even more relevant, as people spend more time in their homes up and down the country.

“While we remain cautious about the continued uncertainty in the wider market, the resilience and flexibility of our business model leaves us well positioned as we enter our peak trading period, and we remain confident in our ability to grow market share and help even more customers create a home they love.”

He added that, during the past three months, Dunelm has relocated two stores in Sunderland and Clydebank, with both sites heated with 100% renewable electricity and low-energy lightbulbs throughout.

The move to repay the furlough money follows similar decisions by other firms, which have handed back more than £215 million they did not need or took in error.

According to HMRC figures last month, 80,433 employers have returned cash they were given to help cover workers’ salaries.